Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Under Milk Wood

Wales Theatre Company , New Theatre Cardiff , October 21, 2003
In this clear and confident performance Matthew Rhys shows us that he could well become the ‘Richard Burton’ of the 21st century. In some ways I hope he doesn’t. He would have to lose that innocent and courteous charm that is the essence of much of his work. Here he doesn’t so much draw us into his world but conducts us gently and extremely politely on a fascinating tour of Dylan Thomas’ beloved Llareggub, “where only you alone can hear the invisible starfall” and the “sun cuffing the birds to sing.”

Now based in Cardiff, award-winning director, Michael Bogdanov could well become the first Artistic Director of a Welsh National Theatre, working in both languages, through a wide range of drama, properly embracing our indigenous culture.

As far into the future as it is possible to see Dylan Thomas will remain our greatest Welsh writer.

This cast Nia Roberts, Llinos Daniel, Katherine Dimery, Nickie Rainsford, Morgan Rhys, Phylip Harries, and Russell Gomer are, undoubtedly as fine a group of Welsh based actors as any one could wish for and home visiting Matthew blends in perfectly with them.

Bogdanov’s designer Ulrike Engelbrecht gives the play the simplest of settings. A black box with a steeply raked floor in the centre on which, like a puppet master he arranges and rearranges his cast in a balletic and often very amusing manner. His greatest asset is the strength and clarity of Dylan’s words.

How those words penetrate, reveal and create such joy within us. The cast brush in some gentle colours and entertaining animation. But these people aren’t stereotypical dim, empty head Welsh idiots, such as you might find in a BBC Wales comedy programme. They are warm, full-blooded earthy people. Here they speak with Welsh accents but they are universal characters sharing lives and loves and demonstrating the human weaknesses that we all share.

The Matthew Rhys charm has infected the whole cast. They are all so generous in their creativity, endearing in their humour, a delight to behold.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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